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Florida DOH Says “No” to New CDC Opioid Guidelines

In a surprising announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seem to be walking back its stance on opioid prescriptions.  Citing extensive research on November 4th, the “CDC Clinical Practice Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Pain — United States, 2022” was published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The new CDC opioid guidelines are raising an alarm in the medical community.

While walking back the 2016 CDC recommendations that physicians should significantly restrict prescribing opioids to patients, the publication does mention cannabis. Specifically, the CDC report states:

“Evidence on [the] effectiveness of cannabis for painful conditions is limited and inconsistent across studies, and some studies have reported adverse events such as dizziness, nausea, and sedation”.

Since 2016, DocMJ has cared for patients who wanted a safer alternative for symptom management.  Our feedback from patients and surveys indicates that many adults can moderate pain symptoms effectively with cannabis.  And with fewer side effects than they experienced taking prescription pain medications. 

What is most concerning is that after six years of educating patients about the risk factors of long-term use of opioid medications, the CDC seems to be nudging in the opposite direction.  As though the opioid crisis is resolved in the United States.  And it is not. 

Opioid Abuse medical marijuana
Deposit Photos

The American Opioid Epidemic Is Definitely Not Over 

When we look at what is happening in terms of opioid use and human health outcomes, it makes sense to look at other data provided by the CDC.  Specifically, information was released regarding the number of overdose deaths in the United States.  One would expect that the rates had gone down significantly for the CDC to reconsider opioids as a safe treatment.

The CDC released figures from June 2021 to June 2022 that mapped the overdose rates by state.  And what is important to remember from these statistics is that drug overdose fatalities are considered underreported in every state.  That means the number of deaths related to drug overdose (including by prescription medications) is likely higher.

Some states have seen a tremendous increase in drug overdose fatalities during the one-year period.  Signaling that America hasn’t resolved the problem of substance abuse or prescription drug misuse. 

Drug overdose fatalities usa 2021 to 2022

Each red flag indicates a state where drug overdose deaths have increased from June 2021 to June 2022. And while some states had a marginal increase, other jurisdictions saw double-digit increases in drug-related fatalities. 

The states with the highest increase in drug fatalities include:

  • South Dakota +31.08%
  • New Hampshire +20.58%
  • Maine +19.70%
  • Oklahoma +19.05%
  • Kansas +17.79%

Florida has been one of only thirteen (13) states that saw a reduction in overdose deaths from June 2021 to June 2022 (-0.65%). West Virginia had the fewest drug fatalities, reducing overdose deaths by (-14.71%). 

What Types of Drugs Are Responsible for Overdose Fatalities?

According to the National Vital Statistics System, 2016-2019, there are six drug classifications that contribute to the highest rates of overdose fatalities. Despite federal agencies negating the therapeutic value and safety of cannabis, medical or adult-use marijuana does not make the list. 

Three classes of opioids did make the list, however.  Natural, semi-synthetic, and synthetic opioids were ranked in the top four. The drugs most commonly responsible for overdose deaths are:

  • Heroin
  • Natural and Semi-Synthetic Opioids 
  • Methadone
  • Synthetic Opioids (Excluding Methadone)
  • Cocaine
  • Psychostimulants (MDMA, Methamphetamine, and Dextroamphetamine) 

Opioids are killing over one hundred thousand Americans every year. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a bulletin on May 11, 2022.  Their data indicated that overdose deaths in 2021 increased by half as much as drug fatalities in 2020.  

“Provisional data from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics indicate there were an estimated 107,622 drug overdose deaths in the United States during 2021, an increase of nearly 15% from the 93,655 deaths estimated in 2020. The 2021 increase was half of what it was a year ago when overdose deaths rose 30% from 2019 to 2020.”

Source Web November 2022: CDC.GOV

To recap, overdose deaths rose 30% from 2019 to 2020.  And then, there was a 15% increase in drug fatalities in the United States from 2020 to 2021. In the opinion of many healthcare providers, those statistics are alarming.  And do not warrant removing restrictions on quantity, dose, or length of prescription for opioid medications. 

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) Pushes Back to Protect Patients  Against New CDC Opioids Guidelines

Dr. Kenneth A. Scheppke is the Deputy Secretary for Health in the state of Florida.  He wrote an article published in the South Florida Hospital News and Healthcare Report.  And clarified that the Florida Department of Health (DOH) would not be revising guidelines for physicians. Or “walking back” on opioid restrictions in the interest of health and safety.

In the article, Dr.Scheppke points to the CDC calling opioid drugs “essential” for pain management while only acknowledging “potential risks.” It is confusing for the CDC to issue an okay to prescribe medicines known as a leading cause of abuse, addiction, and death. 

“There has been an explosion of deadly fentanyl in our state both as a replacement for older illicit opioids and as an additive in many other street drugs. Since 2015 fentanyl-related overdose deaths have increased 790% in Florida,” said Scheppke. 

The Deputy Secretary for Health clearly stated that now is not the time for physicians to return to previous opioid prescribing practices.  And Florida will not be amending its restrictions to help further reduce drug abuse and overdose deaths in our state. 

If you would like to share your thoughts or opinions regarding the new CDC opioid guidelines, you can call or write to them directly:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

1600 Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA 30329, USA

800-CDC-INFO | (800-232-4636) | TTY: (888) 232-6348


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